A colleague asked me recently what I’d tell someone just starting out in retail loss prevention or audit. While much has changed since I started as a store auditor, I still see one mistake again and again – treating audits as “gotcha” moments.
More than a quarter of retailers say that cash theft is their top cause of loss, but when you’re only auditing for compliance, you’re missing opportunities to improve your business and develop your employees. Successful audits are imperative to track what’s going on at your stores, but audits shouldn’t only be checklists that you run through and move on. Take your audits to the next level by going even deeper.
When you're auditing anything in your stores – inventory, cash, safety – ask yourself why first. Why do I need this information? Why is it important that a store has met this requirement?
When you ask yourself these questions first, you’ll be able to ferret out unnecessary checkpoints that bog down the audit process because they don’t serve the business. For example, you might have items on your list that are already covered by technology another team uses, such as inventory order thresholds or cash over/short limits. On the flip side, you might find holes in your audit process that lead you to ask different or more refined questions. In either case, you can adjust your store audit process to be more efficient and more beneficial to the business.
Determine how to take action.
Consider what you do with the information you gather when the audit is complete. Why does it matter if you know that a cashier in Store 247 was short three times last month? If you’re not taking action to retrain, discipline or dismiss them, what’s the point? Often no one has noticed the pattern and taken action because there isn’t a comprehensive overview of audit results that is easily accessible to the right members of your team.
Once you’ve established the validity and necessity of the items you’re auditing for, you can share that with the people you’re auditing. There’s a light bulb that seems to go off for people once you explain why what you’re asking about is important to the business. Understanding the reasoning helps employees be more aware of when they aren’t compliant with corporate policies and work harder to maintain your standards. The more education you invest in your people, the more value you’ll get out of employees and stores.
When I visited stores, it was common for those I was auditing to get anxious about the score they’d receive. Although my visits were often a surprise, I was adamant that they not be viewed as tests or gotcha moments – they were opportunities for us both to learn. Retail and restaurant consultant Jim Sullivan said it best:
“Developing people” is a great way to think about it. Audits are certainly one of your best weapons against loss, but they’re also a tool for gains. With proper two-way communication, audits can build stronger employees, and in turn, a stronger business.